Hollywood's summer box-office streak has cooled a bit with a $37 million opening weekend for J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg's sci-fi tale "Super 8."
It was a healthy but unremarkable launch in a summer season whose newcomers often open with two or three times as much money. Released by Paramount Pictures, "Super 8" largely features a cast of young newcomers, the story centering on teen filmmakers and an alien entity that escapes from a wrecked train.
"The movie was never conceived to be a blockbuster, tent-pole film opening to $60 or $70 million," said Don Harris, head of distribution for Paramount.
Writer-director Abrams ("Star Trek," TV's "Lost") was inspired by his own youth as a Super 8 filmmaker who emulated such talents as Spielberg, a producer on "Super 8."
When the studio scheduled "Super 8" amid such known summer quantities as "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "Kung Fu Panda" sequels, "there was some concern we were sending a signal that it was a big summer blockbuster," Harris said. "What we really wanted to do was find a place where the movie could open, find its audience and hopefully play for a long time."
"Super 8" bumped off the previous weekend's No. 1 movie, 20th Century Fox's comic-book prequel "X-Men: First Class," which slipped to second-place with $25 million. "First Class" raised its domestic total to $98.9 million.
After a string of blockbuster debuts in May and early June, Hollywood's overall revenues dipped for the first time in a month. Domestic receipts totaled $140 million, down 7.5 percent from the same weekend last year, when "The Karate Kid" led with $55.7 million, according to box-office tracker Hollywood.com.
The weekend's other new wide release, Relativity Media's family flick "Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer," opened weakly at No. 7 with $6.3 million. The movie follows a young girl's wacky summer adventures.
"Super 8" started with $1 million in sneak-peek screenings Thursday, giving it a domestic total of $38 million.
The movie added $6.7 million in nine international markets, including $2.7 million in Australia. It expands to about 15 more countries next weekend, among them Russia, Greece and Turkey.
Two sequels passed the $200 million mark domestically this weekend.
The Warner Bros. comedy "The Hangover Part II" came in at No. 3 with $18.5 million to become the year's top-grossing domestic release at $216.6 million.
Disney's action tale "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" was No. 5 with $10.9 million, raising its domestic haul to $208.8 million.
Both movies topped Universal's "Fast Five," which had been the year's biggest moneymaker domestically. "Fast Five" finished at No. 10 with $1.7 million, lifting its domestic total to $205.1 million.
Worldwide, "On Stranger Tides" is the year's top earner, pulling in $886.8 million.
Overall business likely will be down sharply this coming weekend compared to the same period a year ago, when "Toy Story 3" had a huge debut of $110.3 million.
But revenues should rebound in late June and July as Hollywood delivers hotly anticipated sequels to the "Cars," "Transformers" and "Harry Potter" franchises.
"Summer may turn out to be a rollercoaster," said Hollywood.com analyst Paul Dergarabedian. "May was so incredibly strong, and we're going to step back a little bit in June, then come back really strong in July."
Domestic revenues so far this year total $4.4 billion, down 7 percent from 2010 receipts.